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American Life in Poetry: ‘Going Down’ by Jonathan Bracker

By Ted Kooser U.S. poet laureate, 2004-06

Seeing a stranger who reminds you of someone else, well, it happens to all of us. After my father died I saw dozens of little old men in hats like he wore, on their way here and there, not quite my dad, but close. Here Jonathan Bracker, who lives in San Francisco, sees for a moment someone he was once in love with. His most recent collection of poems is This Day (WordTech Press, 2015).

Going Down

Going down the escalator

of the subway, I glanced across

and saw on the escalator’s partner

rising up

someone who looked a bit like you but with hair

not so soft and clean and warm as yours

brushing against mine

on those rare occasions

when inadvertently our foreheads

neared, making me wish it to stay.

We were not physical lovers

and never could have been.

But we were close. Moved three states away,

married happily or not, you are now

only a person I may hope to meet

momentarily, and not really then: merely

in my mind, because of what I chance to see.

But I am not unhappy about this

or think that I am not. Because of your hair.

Because of your beautiful hair.

Poem copyright 2016 by Jonathan Bracker and reprinted by permission of the author. American Life in Poetry is supported by the Poetry Foundation and supported by the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.

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